Political leaders spar as pre-election tensions rise


In what was seen as a preview of the acrimony to come in the period leading up to next year’s election, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis crossed swords in Parliament on Friday, with the latter accusing the government of deliberately turning a blind eye to lawlessness on Greek university campuses. 

Mitsotakis implied that the government has refrained from cracking down on lawlessness in order to saddle the next government with the problem. 

“The state either remains idle or openly flirts with the protagonists of violence,” Mitsotakis told Parliament, and went on to describe daily life on university campuses, making reference to drug dealing, trade in contraband goods and the abuse by criminals of the so-called asylum law which makes it difficult for police to enter university grounds.

He also described “notorious collectives” which “control many university faculties,” turning them into “a haunt for hooded individuals.”

The conservative leader reiterated his party’s pledge to abolish the asylum law.

“The law on asylum will not just change – it will be abolished. And universities will have the same protection afforded to any other public space,” he said.

The debate on the issue focused on a relevant question tabled by Mitsotakis, who argued that a report published by an Education Ministry committee essentially presented the eradication of crime as an unattainable goal.

In his response, Tsipras admitted that there is a crime problem but refuted claims of outright lawlessness and a lack of policing. 

“There is no lawlessness in the country,” he said, and accused Mitsotakis of using the issue of crime in a bid to tap into the votes of the far-right and tarnishing the reputation of the country’s universities. 

He also cited a report by the University of Macedonia, which he said shows that lawlessness has decreased since the current government took over in 2015, noting previous governments had failed to solve the problem. 

He further defended the asylum law, saying it does not forbid police from entering university grounds when a crime is being committed – it only requires that university authorities alert police to any incident.